• What Is Your Greatest Pain?

    Posted by bailey-anne-vincent on September 23, 2020 at 1:22 pm

    Since pain has been on my mind this week, I was wondering:

    What is the most painful procedure you’ve ever had as a patient so far?

    I wrote a column yesterday that alludes to my recent release from pain (since my spine symptoms have worsened and I’m now mostly numb), and how that worsening is actually a mental relief. I didn’t realize how difficult it truly has been until it lessened and my brain came back “on line”.

    I often get pain amnesia after a surgery or procedure, and forget how bad it felt at the time. Still, if I had to compare, I’d say my Top Pain is a toss up between pancreatitis attacks (those are miserable)… when my ICD was placed and they had to cut through my chest muscle (because it completely cramped up after)… when I delivered my daughter without any pain meds or numbing (although that was pain with a purpose, so mentally easier)… and, of course, the spine suffering I’ve dealt with these last six months.

    All of those pains were so different from one another, but worth reflecting on and learning from.

    What about you: What pain tops the list? And if you’ve already shared about this previously/this week, what about a mental pain you’ve overcome before?

    jenny-livingston replied 3 years, 6 months ago 3 Members · 3 Replies
  • 3 Replies
  • jenny-livingston

    September 24, 2020 at 10:15 am

    I typed up a whole paragraph in response to this, and for some reason it didn’t post. Technology, hah!

    Anyway, my top pain experiences include 8 days of a debilitating spinal headache as a result of my epidural, the severe pain and breathlessness from multiple blood clots in my lungs, and the time a nerve bundle was hit during an extremely traumatic PICC line placement (I got a jolt of pain with certain arm movements for a solid year after this). The time I was struck with a lawnmower and my Achilles tendon was severed deserves at least an honorable mention here.

    I love how you talked about “pain with a purpose.” Childbirth is the perfect example of pain that serves a wonderful purpose. I find that when this is the case — even if it’s something like post sinus surgery pain that I know will lead to something good — I can mentally deal with it much better. I’m far more accepting of pain that serves a purpose than pain that is just… painful.

  • paul-met-debbie

    September 27, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    The Pavlov-Nose

    Falling down the stairs and breaking two ribs (possibly bruising several others) was rather a painful procedure I must say. I did it myself, so possibly this does not count.
    And the pain after a classic appendectomy was not fun either, especially not during coughing. But I talked about this earlier.
    And you wanted a horror story, so let’s try better.

    Brace yourselves.

    There was this sinus rinse/flush procedure I went through dozens of times when I was still a kid. In those days (I am talking 1970-1975) sinus surgery was not very refined as it is now. Nothing medical was, come to think of it. Especially not in a backward local hospital in a small town in the far southern Netherlands (did I make it sound obscure enough? I hope so).

    Nowadays there are glossy folders and 4k-video’s for every procedure, explaining and preparing. Back than, you were only told which hospital and what time. This was part of the profession – the doctors knew, the patient not. They attacked by surprise.

    There was only the suggestion of local anesthesia. As far as I remember, it didn’t work. The anesthesia was administered by sticking metal pins deep in the nose, covered with some cotton, drenched in some evil smelling and awfully tasting sharp chemical solution that just burned its way through the soft tissues in my nose. The worst thing was when the solution dripped all the way into the throat. It made every other taste impossible for at least two days. I really got a run for the money. So most of all, the attempt to anesthetize was a torture in itself. And did I already mention that it didn’t work? Ah yes, well really, it didn’t.

    I was just a small kid, about 4 ft long and without any BMI to mention.

    The ear-nose-throat “unit” (for me it was hard to imagine that he was human) that did the procedure was ginormous, way off every BMI-scale. Sitting down he was 4 feet tall and equally wide and he weighed at least twice as much as was healthy for him. This was Sumo-wrestling material. He was very amiable, that I must say (if you force me to). But I refused to call him that after he did his thing to me. Looking back after 50 years however, I must say he meant well. Probably. Possibly.

    Remember his posture, it is crucial to what follows.

    After sitting in the chair in a lot of pain from the metal sticks still buried deep into what used to be my nose (both sides together) for about 5 minutes, two nurses came in. They could have been his twin sisters, size-wise that is – and he was the pretty one of the family. Both also very amiable. They smiled, which turned out to be relatively inappropriate. And absolutely sinister.

    Now, without any explanation, the twins positioned themselves behind me and grabbed my head with four hands, pulling it into the headrest and fixating it like a vise. Meanwhile, the doctor (lets still call him that, he might have been one for all I know), seated on a chair with little wheels, slowly rolled himself closer to me and with his enormous legs he fixated my legs between his to achieve my absolute immovability. He knew his job well. I couldn’t even have seen my legs anymore if I could have looked down, which was impossible since my head … well, you get the drift. I only wish it had been a leg-surgery, I wouldn’t have noticed if they chopped both of them because they actually got more numb from this than my nose did from the sticks. Unfortunately, they really came for the nose. The sticks were removed.

    Suddenly, the doctor’s hand was holding a hollow needle. It was about 8 inches long with a diameter I could distinguish from a distance. It resembled a sturdy knitting-needle. An ant would not have had any problem running through it – with two sibblings sitting on its back. On the doc’s side of the needle there was a sort of handle attached. So that he could, well, lean on it.

    And so he did, after the needle was inserted in one side of my nose and the meat-vise was tightened even more. He used his full 50-BMI. I was so terrified that I forgot to black out. I remember the noise it made when the needle went through the bone between the nose and the sinus cavity. Walking in the woods, you step on a dry stick and it breaks with a satisfying crack. In my situation, same sound, not satisfying. Sensation is like real-estate: location, location, location. I was in a bad place.

    The handle was removed from the needle, a hose was attached to the end and flushing the sinus cavity after that was a breeze. A messy breeze.

    Unfortunately, there still was the other hole in the nose. And now I knew. And the twenty or so times I had the procedure after this one, I knew even better. Ah, the anticipation! Mental anguish is far worse than the actual thing happening.

    Now for some comforting words.

    Since both the nurses and the doc were at least 40 years my senior, chances of them still being around on this earth are slim. The hospital does not exist anymore for sure. I guess after discovering all that went on there, health inspection must have flattened it to burry all the evidence. There is a little playground now, sweet irony.
    They don’t do this procedure anymore nowadays, it has proven to be ineffective.

    And I am happy to say that I have forgotten all reality about it. I can’t reproduce any of the feelings, it’s only words. Nothing but a vague reminiscence remains. How kind nature is. I do however remember the ice cream I got two days after the procedure, vividly – it still is mouth-watering.

    And it makes my nose run.

  • jenny-livingston

    September 28, 2020 at 9:23 am

    @jpaul This was both horrifying to read and incredibly entertaining! The vivid detail, the mental image conjured, oh… what a story! Thank you for sharing.

Log in to reply.